Pandemic Iberia is a spin-off of the hit board game that puts players in a point of history far earlier than the present. With this shift in time period comes some changes to core gameplay. In a world without fight, movement around the board is somewhat hindered. In a world where science is far more primitive, you don’t have the means to cure diseases. Is this evolutionary step backwards compelling enough of a twist to get board game players to the table?
At its core, this is a Pandemic game. Diseases of four different colours will spread, and its your job to minimize their spread by removing the disease cubes from the board. While you’re at it, you’ll need to cash in five city cards of each colour to hospitals in order to beat the game. If you have experience with pretty much any other game in the franchise, you’ll come to grips with the gist of its mechanics right away.
As stated before, you can’t cure diseases in Iberia. Instead, submitting your city cards to hospitals means that you’ve completed research on them. While you gain benefits from the city cards of researched diseases, they can still be added to the board and spread like any other disease.
The game also doesn’t take place across the entire Earth. Instead, you’re playing in Iberian Peninsula, circa 1848. You get a completely different board with a unique layout. Making matters particularly difficult is the fact that there’s no option to fly between cities. Instead, you can lay down train tracks for quick travel across fixed paths. Laying down tracks is key, as it will go a long way towards being able to control diseases or complete research in a timely manner.
Though you can’t cure diseases, you do have access to another tool to help minimize the spread. For the cost of one action and a city card of a matching colour, you can provide purified water to a region of the map. Regions are defined as the space inside the pathways between cities. By placing a purified water tile in a region, you will prevent the spread of one cube to any city within that region. These are crucial if you hope to contain the diseases.
Since this game largely lifts from its source material, it’s no surprise that Pandemic Iberia is a good game. The new board, redesigned components and revised gameplay all make sense for what the designers were going for. It even does enough to justify being in its own box instead of as an expansion to the main game.
That said, this is a game with a very narrow audience. Newcomers are better served with the original off the strength of its more universally-appealing theme and ease of entry. Players who have tried out other expansions and spin-offs may be fatigued by Iberia, which is still largely the same thing they’ve experienced many times over. Finally, for those who have played the revelation that is Pandemic Legacy, going back to a variation of the game that doesn’t evolve over the course of multiple plays will feel like a step backwards.
Because of this, it might explain why Pandemic Iberia is labeled as Limited Edition on the box. The product inside is good, maybe even great, but the only people who would get the most out of it are likely to be the hardest of hardcore Pandemic fans that must have it all. Everyone else is probably best served with other entries in the series.